Ukrainian refugee: 'My heart is back home in Ukraine'
Pablo Gutierrez in Budapest

Soon after Gio Dara fled Ukraine, the musician-turned-refugee was given a guitar by a volunteer, an act of kindness at a difficult time.  After days of traveling with his family, he reached Hungary and arrived at the home of Jeroen van Drunen, who was offering shelter to Ukrainian refugees.

Van Drunen worked as a Dutch diplomat in Ukraine in the early 90s, so when the conflict started his immediate reaction was to help.

"Some of these people had spent 10 days traveling in a car without decent food, without heating, so we simply helped them get back to life," says the former diplomat.


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With van Drunen's help, Dara and his family relocated to London where he continues to play music - organizing charity concerts to raise funds for those who remain in Ukraine.

"When I sang, I felt that music could help in some ways because I had lost all faith," Dara tells CGTN.


Severe challenges

According to Hungarian authorities, nearly 34,000 Ukrainian refugees have settled in the country since the conflict began. The lines of refugees seeking food and shelter are long gone, but they continue to make the country their temporary home until it is safe for them to return.

"Many refugees used up all their savings during the first months here in Hungary. Their needs change as the conflict continues," explains Andras Siewert, who runs the Migration Aid Refugee Center in Budapest.

"They first needed food and clothing. Now they need permanent housing, education, and work."

The refugee center has housed thousands of Ukrainian refugees over the past year. 

Siewert believes as the conflict drags on, the challenges for Ukrainian refugees, and centers like his that rely on public donations, are becoming more severe.


'Ukraine is where I see my future'

The Hungarian government gives Ukrainians who have settled in the country a monthly payment of around $50 per adult and $25 per child, but Siewert says it is not enough.

"They can't live off what the government gives them so they come to us for help,"  he explains.

Some Ukrainian refugees who were initially helped at this shelter now work for it, helping other displaced people.

"I fled to Hungary with my step-parents, and we stayed here for a while. Then I volunteered to work with the children at the shelter, and now I'm a staff worker," says Andrea Kenez, a Ukrainian refugee.

Kenez says she plans to study at a university in Hungary but hopes to return to her home country one day.

"I never thought of living here in Hungary. My heart is back home in Ukraine. That is where I see my future," she says.

Kenez continues to live in hope even as the fighting continues.

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